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Norwich’s Victorian pump house could get new lease of life generating power from River Wensum

PUBLISHED: 16:39 03 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:03 03 January 2019

The New Mills Pumping Station in Norwich. Pic: Simon Finlay.

The New Mills Pumping Station in Norwich. Pic: Simon Finlay.

Archant Norfolk

New life could be breathed into Norwich’s Victorian pumping station, if proposals for it to use the River Wensum to generate electricity are given the go-ahead.

The New Mills Pumping Station n Norwich.
 Pic: Simon Flinlay.The New Mills Pumping Station n Norwich. Pic: Simon Flinlay.

The Grade II-listed New Mills Pump House was built in 1897 as part of engineering works for the new Norwich sewage system, but has been shut since 1972, when the new sewage works at Whitlingham were built.

However, the building, which sits on the New Mill Bridge over the Wensum, still has its pump mechanism inside and Gloucestershire-based Renewables First has applied to Norwich City Council to get the building back into use.

The company, which specialises in hydro and wind power, wants to create a 60 kilowatt hydroelectric scheme at the pumping station.

It would involve the installation of an Archimedes screw which would dip into the river, the necessary connections to the National Grid and a control panel inside the pump house.

Flashback to March 1971, when the pumping station was still in use. Pic: Archant Library.Flashback to March 1971, when the pumping station was still in use. Pic: Archant Library.

The Archimedes screw would be about 20 metres long. Water would enter the screw at the top and rotate it as it falls to the lower level - with the rotation generating electricty extracted by a generator.

In documents lodged with City Hall, the applicant states: “The scheme has been sensitively designed to minimise the impact on the surrounding area and will generate enough power for around 56 homes, while saving 114 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.”

They say the scheme will not cause any increase in likelihood or impact of flooding events.

The Broads Authority has no objection to the proposal, but the Environment Agency has raised concerns. It says the flood risk assessment which has been done is based on out of date modelling and wants that assessment to be done again.

It also wants mitigation measures for passage of silver eels and migratory trout.

The pumping station has the distinction of containing one of only two examples of pneumatic ejection sewage pump and gear in the country, with the only other example in the Houses of Parliament.

And, in the longer term, the applicant has discussed with City Hall officers the possibility of opening the pump house to the public as an industrial heritage museum.

The council will make a decision on whether to grant permission in due course.

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